Friday, February 14, 2014

Why I Rise

Oh, my goodness. I'm so excited that I can't sleep. It's like Christmas and my birthday, but way back when I was five years old! My heart is pounding and happy and full, and I couldn't imagine bringing in this VDay in any other manner.

As my blood pulses wildly through my veins, I can't help but smile at the fact that I've had an exceptionally wide open arms, wide open soul kind of week. Just excitement. Excitement, and reflection, and freedom. I feel as if I'm finally reaching my boiling point; bursting with potential and rising with the heat. Busting at the seams. Basking in glory with hands held high.

Finally.

During this VWeek, I've been reflecting upon the girl I've been and the woman I've become. And, coincidentally, sending mad praise to the Great I Am because I couldn't be more radiantly happy with this wild spirit of mine! For the first time in my life, things are beginning to come together and make perfect, lyrical melodies of sense. I fit. There is nothing wrong with me. I am not a victim. Not anymore. Not since.

I remember bits and pieces of being in the thick of my trauma, feeling darkness like hands around my throat and a giant mouth swallowing me whole. I would lay down to sleep, paralyzed with fear, waiting for the goblins under my bed to take me and even while I slept,  my waking-hour paralysis manifested itself into a ghoulish subconscious existence of running, and being pulled down by my hair, and locked doors, and no escape, and not being fast enough, and trying to save them, and being mocked, and the very worst thing: trying to scream without a single intelligible sound escaping my frantic lips. Losing the one thing I felt I had left: my voice.

But some months later, having rocked myself back to sleep after such nights, I moved on. And I felt what would be the first of a long line of chains being broken.

At fourteen, a gal thinks she can get it together, by herself, and get it together completely. But at twenty three, a gal knows that the story didn't end there; it never ends. I can't quite remember what happened until I graduated high school, other than my having a marvelous time. I think I tried to slowly and quietly heal. Focus on other things. Focus on my having a marvelous time. Deal with anything, anything else.

I knew my soul was sold for this, though. Sexual violence had carved its signature into my entire self, and when I began at Michigan State, I began to look for others who might be damaged like me. There is camaraderie there, and solidarity, and the opportunity to tell your story and to heal together. It was an attractive thing, this possibility that I could trade in my shame for our survival.

But, there is also vicarious trauma. I remember working on one case that was particularly difficult to stomach, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with a world-class survivor, desperately trying to change our worlds for the better. And that's when my anxiety attacks started. And they continued as I dove deeper into my academic career, and they shook me a year later when my family became shaken with confessions of more violence.

I lost my mind for a moment there, as I've mentioned before. I became incredibly discouraged; believing that somehow, all of us get destroyed. And there wasn't a damn thing that I, powerless and broken, could do about it. By a power much greater than my own, though, I broke that spiritual depression and rose to my feet again. I continued to try and advocate for those who needed it, and for myself. Slowly, I was developing a sense of self-worth. Not simply confidence; actual self-worth.

Then, I found the VDay movement.

I laugh about this, because nothing has brought so much joy and radiance into my life, and simultaneously, so much public shaming and fighting and fear-driven judgement. During my involvement with the VDay movement, I met loads of incredible people with whom I continue to surround myself. And finally, I found that solidarity, and grace. Oh, man. That indescribable grace. Pieces of myself began to rush back into place. I began to understand what it was to treat myself with compassion and care. Those who were quick to judge us were quick to call me a hypocrite, but for what? For saving myself? For finding comfort? For attempting to give a voice to others when I knew too well what it was to feel like it had been lost forever? For finding other survivors and finally letting my cloak of shame evaporate? For finally understanding that my trauma was acceptable and normal? For growing deep roots and establishing beautiful connections? Well. Guilty as charged, and I'm not sorry. Not ever.

Because now, I can feel myself beginning to blossom. My heart is full of the love that has been given to me by others, and I actually can't stop myself from giving it freely to the people who surround me every day! I meet new survivors all the time. My heart recognizes them, and wants to love on them, and feels so much care for them. A strong heart will recognize other strong hearts.

And my strong heart wants to rise. I rise for the one in three, the billion women who have experienced the things that I've experienced, tenfold. I rise to eradicate the stigma of mental illness and PTSD. I rise because I have taken back my voice, and I want to use it to help others take back theirs. I rise for the opportunity to lift people up. I rise for all of us; for Laura, Janelle, Stephanie, Rachel, Nic, Katie, Joe, Marie, Bee, Jessica, Tiffany, Hannah, Shawn, Elizabeth, Heather, Kassy, Whitley, Lori, Emily, Herasanna, Kim, Cheyenne, Matthew, Carmon...all of us. I rise against. I rise for. I rise.

I rise today, and I will rise for every tomorrow. Happy VDay!

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